Your immune system is your body’s defense system. It exists to protect you from disease by fighting off pathogens like viruses and bacteria. If your immune system is weak, then there is a greater risk of you getting sick and so we dedicate this post to helping you understand how to boost the immune system.
How The Immune System Works
Learning how the immune system works goes a long way in helping to understand what can and can’t help it, and why. In fact, the title of this post infers that you should ‘boost the immune system’ which is actually not the right way to help your immune system function at its best. Let me explain.
Your immune system works by:
- Recognizing that there is a problem and the body is in danger
- Identifying what that problem is
- Creating an immune response with the aim of getting the body back to normal
When people start to get sick, they often confuse the immune response with the sickness or illness itself. A lot of the time your symptoms are actually a sign that your immune system is working and fighting back. An example of this is the runny nose you get when you have a cold.
It’s important to understand that these symptoms are often your immune system at work. It will help the next sentence make sense – the goal should not be a boosted or stronger immune system, but a more balanced one.
The Problem With a Stronger Immune System
If your immune system reacts dis-proportionally to a particular situation, then it’s going to cause you as many problems as if it had not acted strongly enough.
It could act too strongly in a couple of ways:
- Your immune system could attack healthy body tissue by mistake – this is known as autoimmune disorder
- Your immune system could respond too strongly and cause a harmfully excessive reaction like a cytokine storm
You don’t want your immune system to act too strong or too weak, you want it to act just right which is why your priority should be to encourage balance.
How To Encourage a Balanced Immune System
This title is much better.
The complexity of our immune system means that there is still so much we don’t fully understand about it. What does seem clear is that most of the usual tactics that people use to benefit their immune system are not going to have any impact on it at all.
For example, there is no evidence to suggest that supplements, vitamins or minerals can change the way our body produces an immune response. That’s not to say they are not good for you, but they don’t directly benefit the immune system.
So what should you do instead? Well the best way to promote a balanced immune system is to have a healthy lifestyle. The most effective ways to do this are to:
- Get regular exercise. For more information on this read our post on why is exercise important
- Eat a nutritionally balanced diet full of fruit and vegetables
- Get enough good sleep. Around 8 hours of good sleep a day is ideal
- Keep your body at a healthy weight
- Try to find ways to reduce stress
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Don’t smoke
On top of this, if you want to help decrease your risk of sickness or illness, then learn from how we have all had to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic and do the following:
- Stay away from sick people
- Wash your hands regularly (and properly)
- Stop touching your face so much, especially your eyes and mouth
- Get all recommended vaccines
There is unfortunately no magic formula for quickly boosting your immune system, nor is this what you actually need. Your goal should be to have a balanced immune system and the best way to do this is to maintain a healthy overall lifestyle. It’s more of a long-term game than a short-term fix.
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